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Project Labor Agreements under attack by business groups in Harrisburg

02.27.10

MARCH 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Project Labor Agreements under attack by business groups in Harrisburg

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, February 2nd- Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) in Pennsylvania have been under attack and business groups recently assembled in the state capitol rotunda and stated PLA’s should be eliminated.

A PLA is a comprehensive agreement signed by a builder and local craft unions under which a defined construction project is agreed to be completed by workers from local union halls, in return for the union’s guarantee of no strikes, a steady labor supply, and general labor peace. Under a PLA a nonunion contractor could still be hired for a project, however if they are selected, local unionized workers must be hired.

In September 2009, Republican Pennsylvania House of Representative John Bear (97th Legislative District) introduced legislation that would prohibit the use of PLA’s on public projects in Pennsylvania.

The legislation’s biggest supporter is the Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC) construction group. The ABC group is made-up of nonunion contractors and often lobbies for anti-union legislation. The business group was represented at the event in Harrisburg.

The Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council in Harrisburg in January praised a decision of the Commonwealth Court upholding a Project Labor Agreement between the federation and the State’s Department of General Services (DGS). The letter of commitment between the parties was to assure union workers will be hired for the construction of a 4,100 bed, $400 million prison project at Graterford Prison in Montgomery County.

Frank Sirianni, President of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council said the decision reaffirmed that PLA’s can be beneficial on government funded building projects because they guarantee on-time completion of construction projects without diminishing community standards for working conditions and quality of workmanship.

Mr. Sirianni stated the ABC group participated in seeking injunction relief from the Court to prevent the DGS from entering into PLA’s for state funded construction projects. The ABC has vehemently opposed PLA’s for economic reasons.

“The fact of the matter is that many non-union contractors here in Pennsylvania and all over the country bid on projects with PLA’s and win those bids. They then go on to complete those projects using local crafts people and still earn a reasonable profit. They do this because PLA’s work. It is clear from this case that the ABC and their legislative allies are not really interested in creating jobs for Pennsylvania skilled crafts people. They are more interested in finding ways to line their pockets with our tax dollars and with little protection of our community standards as possible,” stated Mr. Sirianni.

More than thirty business organizations representing more than 5 million non-farm, non-government private sector jobs assembled in Harrisburg stating the business community of Pennsylvania hopes to work with state policymakers to create a more competitive business tax climate that will promote business growth and job creation.

David McCorkle, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association told listeners there are steps Pennsylvania can take to make the state more competitive, more business friendly and a place where jobs are created. One of Mr. McCorkle suggestions is to “eliminate or reform prevailing wage and labor practices that drive up the cost of public projects.”

Testimony to be heard regarding complaint filed by Union

02.27.10

MARCH 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Testimony to be heard regarding complaint filed by Union

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, February 17th- The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) hearing scheduled for April 28th at the Northampton County Courthouse in Easton to hear testimony regarding the complaint filed by the United Steelworkers Union (USW) Local 2599 against Northampton County is still on despite attempts by the union to reach an agreement.

According to Jerry Green, President of Local 2599, there has been an attempt to settle the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge without conducting the hearing but no settlement has been obtained.

A contract dispute between Northampton County administrators and Local 2599, which represents workers at Gracedale nursing home, has resulted in the union filing the complaint with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board in Harrisburg. Northampton County owns and operates the nusing home in Upper Nazareth Township.

According to Jerry Green, President of Local 2599, which office is located on East Lehigh Street in Bethlehem, the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge was filed because the two parties agreed on a new four-year labor agreement but Northampton County administrators have renege on the contract.

“We spent time and money negotiating the contract, now they want to back out of the deal,” said Mr. Green.

Under the contract negotiated with Northampton County officials the 50 Gracedale employees represented by Local 2599 would receive a wage increase of more than four percent each year of the pact.

The previous contract expired on December 31st, 2008 and the two parties agreed to work under the terms and conditions of the old contract while negotiations continued for a successor pact.

On December 15th, 2009 Mr. Green filed the ULP with the PLRB alleging the County leadership willfully and wantonly knew that they would renege of the new agreement that was thought to be reached in good faith.

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board will conduct a hearing and receive testimony on whether the Public Employer Relations Act was violated by Northampton County before Hearing Examiner Thomas Leonard on Wednesday, April 28th, in the third floor training room at the Northampton County Courthouse in Easton.

Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Region’s unemployment rate increases to 9.8 percent

02.26.10

MARCH 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Region’s unemployment rate increases to 9.8 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, February 16th- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Center for Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by five-tenths of a percentage point to 9.8 percent. The MSA includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 7.1 percent.

There are fourteen Metropolitan Statistical Area’s in Pennsylvania and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area is tied with the Williamsport MSA for the second highest unemployment rate.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.9 percent, increasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks ago. There are 560,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,310,000 and 5,751,000 of them have employment. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 10.0 percent, unchanged from the previous report. However, the rate does not include workers who benefits have been exhausted and have stopped looking for work. There are 15,267,000 residents nationally unemployed which also does not include workers who benefits have been exhausted.

The data shows the Erie MSA has the highest unemployment rate in the state at 10.0 percent. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the third highest unemployment rate in the state at 9.7 percent, with the the Johnstown MSA and the Reading MSA tied for the fourth highest unemployment rate in the state at 9.4 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.0 percent, with the Lebanon MSA second at 7.1 percent and the Lancaster MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 7.7 percent.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 416,100, dropping by 6,000 during the past twelve months. There are 40,700 residents in the MSA without jobs, rising by 10,800 during the past twelve months. Those number does not include workers who have exhausted their benefits.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 2,944,600 with 263,800 residents not working. The Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest civilian labor force at 1,199,600, with 95,300 residents unemployed. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force in the state at 280,500, with 22,300 residents unemployed. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fifth largest civilian labor force at 278,800 with 27,100 residents not working.

Philadelphia CLUW Panel of Parental Leave

02.23.10

by John Mason

A panel discussion on maternity/paternity leave for caregivers took place at a benefit meeting of the Philadelphia chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), held at the headquarters of the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, 22 South 22nd Street, on Monday, January 25, 2010.

The event was to raise funds and supplies for Women Against Abuse, a homeless shelter for women and children, staffed by members of the United Auto Workers. Contributions needed for the shelter included such items as bed linens, towels, diapers, car seats, and stationary supplies.

Kathy Black, President of the Philadelphia CLUW chapter, said that the evening’sprogram was created by the chapter’s Young Women’s Committee, chaired by April Logan; “They put together a nice group of speakers,” Black said, “ and they’ve been working on this for some months,” and she commended Logan’s “commitment and excellent work (in) keeping the committee focused, growing, and engaged.” Logan served as moderator for the panel discussion.

Logan pointed out studies that have shown, with the current economic troubles, “that more and more women are becoming the sole or head breadwinner in the family. In fact…they’re surpassing men.” However, added Logan, “women are frequently in part- time jobs, or they’re full-time jobs, but still they tend to make less money than men, about eighty-cents to the dollar that men make.” The challenge, she went on, “to try to fulfill that role of being the breadwinner of the family. In this context, the issue of maternity/paternity leave becomes especially important, because I always thought it a little odd that just when your family financial responsibilities are about to increase, you have to take unpaid leave because you have some caretaker responsibilities (for children).”

Beginning the panel discussion was Amal Bass, of the Women’s Law Project, a public-interest organization dedicated to women’s equality. Bass spoke about federal and state laws on parental leave. “I wish I could say,” she said, “that the law provides more than it does.” On the federal level, she said, “there are two main laws that really apply to parental leave. First is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the other is Title Seven of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. FMLA is usually what people think about when they think about parental leave in the United States.” FMLA, said Bass, was enacted in the early 1990s’, and “it provides certain employees with up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave. It only applies to certain employers, you have to employ fifty or more employees, and (it covers) certain employees of that employer, people who have worked there for a year, people who have worked a certain number of hours

“So there are a lot of people,” said Bass, “this law doesn’t apply to at all, and it only gives you unpaid leave. The employer has to maintain your health benefits during that time, but if you pay for a certain portion of your health benefits, then you might not actually be able to afford to that.” FMLA, added Bass, “it guarantees job restoration, so at the end of your unpaid leave, your employer has to put you in the same position or an equivalent position.”

Next was Rona Kaufman Kitchen, Abraham L. Freedman Teaching Fellow of the Beasley School of Lay of Temple University. Kitchen spoke about parental leave policies in other countries. Kitchen spoke of “twenty-one countries, that are comparable to the US in that they’re high-income economies.” The countries included France, Germany, Spain, Norway, Austria, Ireland, Italy Greece, Japan, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Finland Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Switzerland; “Of those countries,” said Kitchen, “the best (parental) leave is at up to six years, so that’s six years of (unpaid) job protected leave…The worst is fourteen weeks.” The highest at six years, she added, was in France and Spain, and the lowest at fourteen weeks is in Switzerland, “but is Switzerland, there’s eighty percent pay for those fourteen weeks

“Among the other countries,” said Kitchen, “there’s up to two years of job protected leave, which is in Germany, Sweden, Norway, and Austria, over one year of job protected leave in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Japan and New Zealand, one full year in Australia, Canada, and Denmark, and in the remaining countries there are six months of leave in four of them, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Portugal, and finally less than six months of job protected leave in the US and Switzerland.” Kitchen added that job protected parental leave, in advanced countries outside the US, “very much is the norm.”

Also on the panel were Alaine S. Williams, an attorney for the Labor law firm Willig, Williams, and Davidson, who discussed court cases related to parental leave; and Joyce Lindorff, Vice-President of TAUP/AFT Local 4531 and member of the Philadelphia CLUW board, who discussed recent language in the contract with Temple University on parental leave.

Boycott FedEx

02.23.10

Boycott FedEx

By Chris Hedges

Dean Henderson’s career with FedEx ended abruptly when a reckless driver plowed into his company truck and mangled his leg. His doctor will decide this week if it needs to be amputated. No longer able to drive, stripped of value in our commodity culture, he was tossed aside by the company. He became human refuse. He spends most of his days, because of the swelling and the pain, with his leg raised on a recliner in the tiny apartment in Fairfax, Va., he shares with his stepsister. He struggles without an income and medical insurance, and he fears his future.

Henderson is not alone. Workers in our corporate state earn little when they work—Henderson made $18 an hour—and they are abandoned when they can no longer contribute to corporate profits. It is the ethic of the free market. It is the cost of unfettered capitalism. And it is plunging tens of millions of discarded workers into a collective misery and rage that is beginning to manifest itself in a dangerous right-wing backlash.

“This happened while I was wearing their uniform and driving one of their company vehicles,” Henderson, a 40-year-old military veteran, told me. “My foot is destroyed. I have a fused ankle. I have had over a dozen surgeries. It hurts to wear a sock. I was limping pretty badly, but in the spring of 2008 FedEx said I had to come back to work and sit in a chair. It saved them money on workers’ compensation payments. I worked a call center job and answered telephones. I did that for three months. I had my ankle fused in January 2009, and then FedEx fired me. I was discarded. They washed their hands of me and none of this was my fault.”

Our destitute working class is beginning to grasp that Barack Obama and other elected officials in Washington, who speak in a cloying feel-your-pain language, are liars. They are not attempting to prevent wages from sinking, unemployment from mounting, foreclosures from ripping apart communities, banks from looting the U.S. Treasury or jobs from being exported. The gap between our stark reality and the happy illusions peddled by smarmy television news personalities and fatuous academic and financial experts, as well as oily bureaucrats and politicians, is becoming too wide to ignore. Those cast aside are reaching out to anyone, no matter how buffoonish or ignorant, who promises that the parasites and courtiers who serve the corporate state will disappear. Right-wing rage is being fused with right-wing populism. And once this takes hold, a protofascism will sweep across our blighted landscape fueled by a mounting personal and economic despair. Take a look at Sinclair Lewis’ “It Can’t Happen Here.” It is a good window into what awaits us……

(read the rest of this article at http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/boycott_fedex_20100222 )

Project Labor Agreements again under attack in Harrisburg

02.23.10

FEBRUARY 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Project Labor Agreements again under attack in Harrisburg

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 2nd- Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) in Pennsylvania have been under attack and on February 2nd business groups assembled in the state capitol rotunda and stated PLA’s should be eliminated.

A PLA is a comprehensive agreement signed by a builder and local craft unions under which a defined construction project is agreed to be completed by workers from local union halls, in return for the union’s guarantee of no strikes, a steady labor supply, and general labor peace. Under a PLA a nonunion contractor could still be hired for a project, however if they are selected, local unionized workers must be hired.

In September 2009, Republican Pennsylvania House of Representative John Bear (97th Legislative District) introduced legislation that would prohibit the use of Project Labor Agreements on public projects in Pennsylvania.

The legislation’s biggest supporter is the Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC) construction group. The ABC group is made-up of nonunion contractors and often lobbies for anti-union legislation. The business group was represented at the event in Harrisburg on February 2nd.

In December, the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council in Harrisburg praised a decision of the Commonwealth Court upholding a Project Labor Agreement between the federation and the State’s Department of General Services (DGS). The letter of commitment between the parties was to assure union workers will be hired for the construction of a 4,100 bed, $400 million prison project at Graterford Prison in Montgomery County.

Frank Sirianni, President of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council said the decision reaffirmed that PLA’s can be beneficial on government funded building projects because they guarantee on-time completion of construction projects without diminishing community standards for working conditions and quality of workmanship.

Mr. Sirianni stated the ABC group participated in seeking injunction relief from the Court to prevent the DGS from entering into PLA’s for state funded construction projects. The ABC has vehemently opposed PLA’s for economic reasons.

“The fact of the matter is that many non-union contractors here in Pennsylvania and all over the country bid on projects with PLA’s and win those bids. They then go on to complete those projects using local crafts people and still earn a reasonable profit. They do this because PLA’s work. It is clear from this case that the ABC and their legislative allies are not really interested in creating jobs for Pennsylvania skilled crafts people. They are more interested in finding ways to line their pockets with our tax dollars and with little protection of our community standards as possible,” stated Mr. Sirianni.

On February 2nd, more than thirty business organizations representing more than 5 million non-farm, non-government private sector jobs assembled in Harrisburg stating the business community of Pennsylvania hopes to work with state policymakers “to create a more competitive business tax climate that will promote business growth and job creation. Business leaders in our region and across Pennsylvania agree that tax competitiveness is a key element to the state’s economic recovery and resurgence,” said Robert Wondering, President of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

David McCorkle, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association told listeners there are steps Pennsylvania can take to make the state more competitive, more business friendly and a place where jobs are created.

One of Mr. McCorkle suggestions is to “eliminate or reform prevailing wage and labor practices that drive up the cost of public projects.”

Democratic Party candidate for Governor Dan Onorato endorsed by Teamsters Union

02.23.10

FEBRUARY 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Democratic Party candidate for Governor Dan Onorato endorsed by Teamsters Union

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 5th- Allegheny County Executive and Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania Governor Dan Onorato is requesting the labor community support him in the May election.

Mr. Onorato is one of four Democrats seeking to become their party nominee and challenge the Republican Party candidate in November. The candidates want to replace out-going Democratic Governor Edward Rendell.

Dan Onorato was raised in a working class neighborhood of North Pittsburgh. His father worked as a mechanic at the Allis-Chalmers tractor factory and his mother was a elementary school teacher.

“When I talk to Pennsylvania families from every region of the Commonwealth. I hear the same thing. Folks want a Governor with new ideals to create new jobs and to clean-up Harrisburg. As Alleghany County Executive, and before that as County Controller, that’s what I’ve been all about, reforming government, investing in innovation and creating the 21st Century jobs we need to be competitive in the economy,” said Mr. Onorato.

On February 4th, Mr. Onorato received the endorsement of the Pennsylvania Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union (IBT). The union represents 92,000 IBT members across Pennsylvania.

According to James Murphy, Business Representative of IBT Union Local 401 in Wilkes-Barre, his union is affiliated with the IBT Pennsylvania Conference and has 1,600 active members.

Senators Casey and Specter support extension of benefits for unemployed workers

02.23.10

FEBRUARY 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Senators Casey and Specter support extension of benefits for unemployed workers

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 26th- Pennsylvania United States Democratic Senators Arlen Specter and Robert Casey and 29 other members of the Senate sent a letter to the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus urging an extension of unemployment benefits and eligibility for the CORBA Premium Assistance Program through December 31st, 2010.

Labor statistics show that nearly 40 percent of the unemployed, more than 6.1 million people, have been out of work for six months or longer. Many of the workers and their families lost their health coverage when they lost their jobs. On average a montly health care premium payment to cover a family costs $1,111.00 which is 83.4 percent of the average unemployment check.

The senators urged quick action on the extension of the unemployment insurance provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRAct) through December 31st, 2010 including the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program, the Extended Benefit program, an increase of $25.00 per week in state and federal benefits and the suspension of the federal income tax on an individual’s first $2,400.00 of unemployment benefits.

Both programs are scheduled to expire on February 28th.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA’s unemployment rate rising despite labor force decrease

02.23.10

FEBRUARY 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

MSA’s unemployment rate rising despite labor force decrease

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 2nd- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.7 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks before. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 7.6 percent.

The unemployment rate in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is 8.9 percent, increasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,310,000 with 560,000 not working and 5,751,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 10.0 percent, unchanged from the previous month.

The MSA’s unemployment rate increased despite the decrease of the civilian labor force. The labor force has fallen by 4,500 residents during the past twelve months to 278,800. At the same time the region has 251,700 civilians working, decreasing by 10,000 from twelve months before.There are 15,340,000 civilians in the nation without employment. That number does not include civilians that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have stopped looking for work. There are at least 20,000,000 civilians in the nation without jobs.

There are 27,100 residents in the MSA not working, increasing by 5,500 from twelve months before. That number also does not include civilians who unemployment benefits have expired and stopped looking for work.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 2,944,600 with 263,800 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA is second at 1,199,600 with 95,300 without jobs; the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 416,100 with 40,700 not working; and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 280,500 with 22,300 without employment.

Of the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the third highest unemployment rate. The Erie MSA has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 10.0 percent, with the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA and the Williamsport MSA tied for the second highest at 9.8 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.0 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 7.1 percent with the Lancaster MSA the third lowest in the Commonwealth at 7.7 percent and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA fourth at 7.9 percent.

Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.2 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and jumping by one and eight-tenths percentage points from one year ago. Lackawanna County has a labor force of 106,900, decreasing by 200 from the report before and falling by 2,000 during the past twelve months. There are 9,800 Lackawanna County residents without jobs, increasing by 300 from the previous report and increasing by 1,800 from one year ago. That number also does not include residents that have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have stopped looking for work.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 10.1 percent, increasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the report before and increased by a whopping two and three-tenths percentage points from twelve months ago. The labor force in Luzerne County was unchanged from the previous report and decreased by 2,300 during the past year. Of the labor force 16,000 do not have a job, increasing by 600 during the past four weeks and rising by 3,400 from one year ago.

Wyoming County has a unemployment rate of 9.6 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report and increasing by two and one-tenth of a percentage point from one year ago. Wyoming County has a labor force of 14,300, unchanged from the previous report and dropping by 200 from one year ago. There are 1,400 Wyoming County residents without jobs, the same as the previous report and increasing by 300 from twelve months before.

The Cadillac Crunch

02.23.10

The Cadillac Crunch

by David Corn

http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/02/cadillac-tax-health-care-reform

After over a year of partisan and policy combat, the epic battle for health care reform may come down to an internal Democrat party tussle: whether or not House Democrats yield to President Barack Obama and accept a tax on high-end insurance plans.

After the Democrats in the House and the Senate passed different versions of health care legislation, several critical matters had to be worked out, including how to finance the reform. The House bill called for a surtax on the wealthiest Americans, The Senate measure included a tax on so-called Cadillac plans. This led to a contentious intra-party squabble. A few weeks ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told several columnists (including me) that this excise tax has “no support” among House Democrats and that “the easiest thing is just to get rid of the whole excise tax.”

Yet on Monday, the president released—finally—his own health care proposal, which essentially is based on the Senate measure, with a few changes. And on the excise tax, he sided with the Senate. But he wants it tweaked so that it kicks in 2018, not 2013, and hits fewer plans. His proposal calls for raising the threshold for this tax from $23,000 in premiums for a family to $27,500.

Obama’s reforms address some of the complaints from House Dems—but not their fundamental gripe: the tax is bad policy and bad politics. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, (D-NY), who has led the charge against the excise tax, contends that a tax imposed on high-cost plans would likely not cause insurers to become more efficient and reduce costs (the supposed intent) but to cut back on benefits—and employees will end up with higher deductibles and co-payments as a result. Such a development, Nadler adds, will “violate Obama’s promise that if you like your plan, you can keep it.” Nadler also fears an excise tax is “political poison” because it will hit blue-collar workers (unionized or not) who have managed to obtain high-end health plans. “We lost the Reagan Democrats in the 1970s and 1980s,” he says, “because they came to believe that liberals wanted to benefit other people—the blacks, the Latinos—at their expense. We’ve just gotten them back. And now we’re saying to working people, we have to insure other people at your expense. This will destroy the Democratic Party and progressive politics for 30 years.”

At that meeting with columnists a few weeks ago, Pelosi estimated that at most there were 20 Democrats in her caucus who might support an excise tax. The White House appears to be banking on a wholesale conversion of House Dems. But it’s unclear whether Obama’s alterations to the tax—which also include not counting dental and vision benefits as taxable and easing the tax for firms with higher health-care costs due to the age or gender of their employees—will win over Democrats on the House side. According to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, the White House did not brief the House Democrats regarding its intentions on the excise tax until after the plan was devised. And during a White House conference call about the overall proposal, economic aide Jason Furman was asked if the administration had attempted to work out an excise tax deal with the House Democrats before releasing the plan. He replied that “everyone would appreciate it” if the Obama proposal led to lower premiums. In other words, no.

The immediate reaction from House Democrats on Monday was mixed. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) says, “”I still don’t like the excise tax but I think again the President listened to critics and tried to respond. He significantly increased the threshold—both the individual and family threshold—and he pushed out to 2018 when it would kick in. Those are very substantial concessions to those of us who are uncomfortable with the approach and I think we need to give him a fair shake at looking at that and seeing if that would work.” Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), the co-chair of the House progressive caucus, was non-committal. “It appears that the President has reached 80 percent towards the House,” she notes, but adds “there’s absolutely no detail.”

It appears that the White House may be quasi-sticking it to the House Democrats. On other fronts, Obama’s proposal did more to render the Senate bill more to their liking—by boosting provisions that will make insurance more affordable for families and individuals, by strengthening insurance protections for consumers, by dumping the Nebraska sweetener, and by setting up a new federal authority that will help states regulate insurance premiums. (The Obama proposal says nothing about the difference between the House and Senate bills concerning how far to go in restricting funding for plans that could include coverage of abortions.) But the White House is saying the House Ds will have to swallow the excise tax in some form.

That could bring the Democratic Party to a dramatic Tarantino-like stand-off. Can the House Dems accept the modified excise tax as the price of passing health care reform? Will they balk and force the White House and the Senate Dems to yield? Or will the Cadillac crash into a ditch and explode? For health care reform to become law, someone in the Democratic Party is going to have to blink.

Additional reporting by Nick Baumann.

David Corn is Mother Jones’ Washington bureau chief.

McJobs: the web site

02.22.10

McJobs ## we all know what those are.

One online source defines a McJob as “a low-paying, low-prestige job that requires few skills and offers very little chance of intracompany advancement”.

McDonald’s was never very happy about the use of this term.

In fact, the company bought the domain name “mcjobs.com” just to make sure that no one could use it.

But they forget to acquire “mcjobs.org” ## and the global union federation for food workers, the IUF, together with LabourStart, bought the name and today are pleased to announce the public launch of McJobs.org, the website for McDonald’s workers around the world.

If you work in McDonald’s, or know anyone who does, or are just curious, please do check it out:

http://www.mcjobs.org

Eric Lee

Labour Start

Reid Pulls Rabbit Out Of His Hat

02.22.10

Reid Pulls Rabbit Out Of His Hat
by David Kurtz

Talking Points Memo link

It looked for a time like even Harry Reid’s stripped-down jobs bill might stall with less than the required 60 votes, but at least two Republicans ## Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Olympia Snowe of Maine ## have joined with the Democrats, which should be enough to advance the bill through this key procedural vote.

Late Update: The final vote was 62-30. The Dems lost Ben Nelson (D-NE), who voted against the bill; and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is undergoing cancer treatment and did not vote. So that knocked the Dems from 59 votes down to 57, but they picked up five Republicans, Brown and Snowe, as I mention above, plus Susan Collins (R-ME), Kit Bond (R-MO) and George Voinovich (R-OH).

AFGE applauds proposed budget increase in Veteran care

02.22.10

FEBRUARY 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

AFGE applauds proposed budget increase in Veteran care

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 4th- The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Union and its National Veteran’s Affairs Council applauded the Obama Administration’s proposed funding increase for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The White House’s proposed fiscal year 2011 budget provides $57 billion in increases for the Veterans Administration.

AFGE is the largest federal employee union representing 600,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

The union represents workers of two of the biggest employers in Northeastern Pennsylvania including workers of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Wilkes-Barre Township in Luzerne County and the Tobyhanna Army Depot in Monroe County. AFGE Local 1647 represents Tobyhanna Army Deport employees.

AGFE Local 1699 President Yolanda Riggsbee complained for years about funding cuts for Veterans Affairs during the Bush Administration. Local 1699 represents workers employed at the Veterans Hospital.

For more than two decades, AFGE, which represents 180,000 employees in the Veterans Administration, has joined veterans’ groups in calling for funding of veterans’ services.

The union believes the release of this year’s budget is an especially momentous occasion for veterans and its dedicated workforce. The Fiscal Year 2011 budget marks the first two-year funding cycle for the Veteran’s Administration health care system.

In October 2009 AFGE officials stood with veterans’ groups at the White House signing of Public Law 111-81, funding reform legislation that ensures more predictable, adequate funding for the Veteran’s Administration health care by authorizing the United States Congress to provide health care dollars one year ahead of time through advance appropriations. For the first time in the history of the Veteran Administration’s budget, this year, President Obama’s budget request includes health care funds for two years.

“We applaud President Obama for standing by his commitment to veterans’ health care needs. Veteran Administration hospitals, clinics and long term care facilities can finally count on getting the dollars they need for timely hiring, equipment purchases and construction. Funding reform, which was supported by the president when he was a Senator, will put an end to yearly shortfalls and supplemental funding bills,” said David Cox, AFGE Union Secretary Treasurer.

“AFGE is alo very pleased the administration has dedicated a substantial amount of resources towards the unique needs of women veterans, we well as, dedicating $800 million towards tackling homelessness among veterans. For our military has been strengthened by the contributions of female members of the armed services. We are especially pleased that the administration has recognized that the 21st Century Veterans Administration must be responsive to their needs. Likewise, in a nation as rich and grateful as ours, no veteran should ever be condemned to homelessness. This budget reflects those commitments and we commend the President for it,” added Mr. Cox.

According to the union, AFGE and its National Veterans Administration Council have been longtime advocates for mandatory funding of the Veterans Administration, an approach they say is widely supported by the veterans’ community. AFGE with the nine veteran’s groups comprising the Partnership for Veterans Health Care Budget Reform endorsed advanced appropriations as an alternative funding approach that is achievable in the short term. “Yearly funding delays were driving up costs by requiring the Veterans Administratrion to turn more and more contract care from providers not specializing in veterans’ health care needs,” Mr. Cox said.

UFCW and IBT request union members buy Wise products

02.22.10

FEBRUARY 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

UFCW and IBT request union members buy Wise products

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 28th- The two unions that represent workers employed at the Wise Foods plant in Berwick, Columbia County, are requesting union members patronize the company and buy Wise chips and snacks.

Michele Kessler, Secretary-Treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 1776, Route 315 in Pittston, stated by purchasing Wise Snacks products, union members would be supporting “fellow union brothers and sisters.”

“Purchase Wise snacks and eat union made products and help our members,” said Ms. Kessler.

Local 1776 represents approximately 25,000 workers throughout Northeastern, Central and Southeastern Pennsylvania. The union represents workers employed in supermarkets; drug stores, including Rite Aid; food processing plants; government services, including workers employed by the Borough of Dunmore; manufacturing plants, including Wise Snacks; nursing homes, including Valley Crest Nursing Home; and the Pennsylvania Wine and Spirits Shoppes.

Ms. Kessler stated Wise employs approximately 600 union workers at their manufacturing plant in Berwick including around 540 UFCW members. The union represents production workers.

Local 1776 members are currently working under the terms and conditions of the previous contract agreement that expired on February 1st, 2009. In August 2009 the membership rejected the company’s three-year contract proposal that contained a pension freeze and because of rises in health insurance costs would wipe out wage increases.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 401, South Washington Street in Wilkes-Barre, represents around 60 Wise Foods workers including truck drivers and warehouse employees.

According to James Murphy, Business Representative of Local 401, the contract between the IBT and Wise Foods does not expire for another year and a half.

“They are tough employers, but they are a good employer as well,” said Mr. Murphy.

Ms. Kessler said the company is one of the largest employers in the area that employs union workers.

EPI: Contrary to Claims, Skilled Visa Programs are Used as Source of Cheap Foreign Labor, Says New EPI Study

02.17.10

Contrary to Claims, Skilled Visa Programs are Used as Source of Cheap Foreign Labor, Says New EPI Study

Despite claims from employers that they use skilled guest worker visa programs to attract talented foreign workers and help them remain permanently in the U.S., new evidence shows the visa programs to be mainly a means to help outsource U.S. jobs or recruit cheap temporary labor.

A new Economic Policy Institute report examines the 20 U.S. employers receiving the most H-1B skilled worker visas and estimates that, on average, these employers apply for permanent residence status on behalf of just 13% of their H-1B workers. The report also examines the 20 employers receiving the most L-1 worker visas and estimates that, on average, they apply for permanent residency on behalf of just 7% of their L-1 workers. (In both visa programs, it is generally the sponsoring employer – not the worker – who is permitted to file for permanent residency on behalf of the worker).

“Proponents of expanding these visa programs argue that it’s in our national interest to attract the best and the brightest workers from around the world and to keep them here permanently,” said Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the report’s author. “But these employers are saying one thing and doing quite another. They are spinning these workers through a revolving door in order to drive down wages and help send more jobs overseas.”

For example, according to U.S. Department of Labor records, Tata Consultancy Services, ranking 4th in H-1B use in 2008, applied for permanent residence for none of the workers it brought to the U.S. on H-1B visas. IBM India, ranking 10th in H-1B use and 14th in L-1 use in 2008, applied for permanent residence for none of its H-1B or L-1 workers.

The report, Path to Skilled Permanent Immigrants or Cheap Temporary Labor?, shows how the skilled guest worker visa programs are being used as a strategy for reducing labor costs. In some cases, foreign workers are brought to the U.S. for job training by American workers. After the training, foreign workers return home and do the same work for less pay, while the American workers may be laid off. In other cases, foreign workers are brought to the U.S. temporarily to coordinate operations between the U.S. and workers in their home countries, often because they can be hired to do the job more cheaply.

According to the report, India became the source of 48% of all L-1B visas (a subset of L-1 visas) issued in 2005, up from 10% in 2002, indicating that “it is quite likely that a sizeable share, perhaps even a majority of L-1 visas, are being used to send work previously performed in America to low cost countries.”

The report found different uses of the visa programs depending on employers’ business models: businesses with a significant offshore presence in low-cost countries and those with a more modest offshore presence rely on the visa programs primarily for temporary labor, while those with a traditional business model (with most operations still in the U.S.) are more likely to sponsor temporary workers for permanent U.S. residence.

The report calls for reforms to the visa programs to ensure that they benefit U.S. and foreign workers and the U.S. economy overall. “When skilled foreign workers are needed we should rely primarily on permanent immigration to supply them,” the report says.

Background on the H-1B and L-1 Programs

The H-1B is a three year, non-immigrant visa created under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which can be renewed once for an additional three years. The visa provides employers with the opportunity to temporarily employ foreign workers who possess a bachelor’s degree. Employers must sponsor applications for permanent residence, leaving H-1B workers in a severely weakened bargaining position. The L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows for intra-company transfers within multinational corporations. Unlike the H-1B, L-1 workers must only possess specialized knowledge regarding the general company operations; no higher educational degree is necessary.

About EPI

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute – or think tank – that researches the impact of economic trends and policies on working people in the United States and around the world.

Economic Policy Institute
Communications Department
1333 H Street, NW
Suite 300, East Tower
Washington, D.C. 20005

Hyperlinks

If the hyperlinks (above) don’t work, copy and paste these addresses into your browser:

Briefing Paper: http://www.epi.org/page/-/pdf/bp257.pdf

EPI Newsroom: http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/newsroom_index

Describing EPI: http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/newsroom_describing_epi

AFL-CIO urges supporters to challenge White House about NLRB

02.16.10

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2010/02/afl-cio-urges-supporters-to-co.html

AFL-CIO urges supporters to challenge White House about NLRB

By Alec MacGillis
The Washington Post

In a clear indication that labor unions are running out of patience with the Obama administration, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka sent out a sharply worded action alert to its entire e-mail list Friday evening, urging phone calls to the White House to protest its inaction on two nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.

Republicans have called one nominee, Craig Becker, a controversial choice for the board. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he was “the first person nominated” for the NLRB “who comes directly from a labor organization.” Becker is the associate general counsel for the AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union.

After the GOP threatened to filibuster the nomination, senators refused Tuesday to move to a vote on Becker, killing his confirmation. The White House has since indicated that President Obama will not appoint Becker to the position during Congress’ recess next week.

That latest news prompted Trumka’s e-mail, in which he also objects to the languishing nomination of labor trial lawyer Mark Pearce to the board. Larry Mishel, president of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, said it was not surprising that the AFL-CIO was taking up arms.

“It is pretty disheartening to see the president not really protecting his nominees,” Mishel said. “People need to see him fighting.”

The labor movement has swallowed a lot in the first year of the Obama administration. Unions had very high hopes after eight years of George W. Bush, who invited the president of the AFL-CIO across the street to the White House only once in eight years (when the pope visited).

And organized labor had done a great deal to help elect a Democratic president and congressional majority, turning out its members to vote for Obama in key Rust Belt swing states where he struggled with other working-class voters.

But Congress and Obama have barely budged on labor’s biggest priority, the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier to organize workers. The legislation was watered down to pass muster with conservative Senate Democrats, but the loss of the 60th Democratic vote last month may well have doomed even the compromise version.

Organized labor’s other big agenda item, universal health care, is also in limbo. Even if a reform bill passes, it’s quite possible that it will not include some of the last-minute concessions that unions won to reduce the impact on their members. Of the greatest concern is a tax on costly health insurance plans, a tax that Obama pushed to include in the legislation over unions’ strong opposition.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Call the White House and give them a piece of your mind. Call the White House Switchboard NOW: 202-456-1111 OR 202-456-1414. Tell them you want recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board of Craig Becker and Mark Pearce. They are highly respected labor lawyers whom President Obama nominated for seats on the National Labor Relations Board who the Republicans and Democratic Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska are blocking.

The Economic Elite Vs. The People of the United States of America - Part I

02.16.10

The Economic Elite Vs. The People of the United States of America - Part I

By David DeGraw, AmpedStatus Report

This is the first part of a six-part report. Part two will be posted on Wednesday. To be notified via email, subscribe to our newsletter here. http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/339/t/4630/signUp.jsp?key=4028

——-I: Causalities of Economic Terrorism, Surveying the Damage
——-II: The Rise of the Economic Elite
——-III: Exposing Our Enemy: Meet the Economic Elite
——-IV: The Financial Coup d’Etat
——-V: Overcoming the Divide and Conquer Strategy
——-VI: How to Fight Back and Win: Common Ground Issues That Must Be Won

“The American oligarchy spares no pains in promoting the belief that it does not exist, but the success of its disappearing act depends on equally strenuous efforts on the part of an American public anxious to believe in egalitarian fictions and unwilling to see what is hidden in plain sight.” — Michael Lind, To Have and to Have Not

It’s time for 99% of Americans to mobilize and aggressively move on common sense political reforms.

Yes, of course, we all have very strong differences of opinion on many issues. However, like our Founding Fathers before us, we must put aside our differences and unite to fight a common enemy.

It has now become evident to a critical mass that the Republican and Democratic parties, along with all three branches of our government, have been bought off by a well-organized Economic Elite who are tactically destroying our way of life. The harsh truth is that 99% of the US population no longer has political representation. The US economy, government and tax system is now blatantly rigged against us.

Current statistical societal indicators clearly demonstrate that a strategic attack has been launched and an analysis of current governmental policies prove that conditions for 99% of Americans will continue to deteriorate. The Economic Elite have engineered a financial coup and have brought war to our doorstep. . . and make no mistake, they have launched a war to eliminate the US middle class.

To those who feel I am using extreme rhetoric, I ask you to please take a few minutes of your time to hear me out and research the evidence put forth. The facts are there for the unprejudiced, rational and reasoned mind to absorb. It is the unfortunate reality of our current crisis.

Unless we all unite and organize on common ground, our very way of life and the ideals that our country was founded upon will continue to unravel…….

Before exposing exactly who the Economic Elite are, and discussing common sense ways in which we can defeat them, let’s take a look at how much damage they have already caused.

I: Causalities of Economic Terrorism, Surveying the Damage

The devastating numbers across-the-board on the economic front are staggering. I’ll go through some of them here, many we have already become all too familiar with. We hear some of these numbers all the time, so much so that it appears as if we have already begun “to normalize the unthinkable.” You may be sick of hearing them, but behind each number is an enormous amount of individual suffering, American lives and families who are struggling worse then they ever have.

America is the richest nation in history, yet we now have the highest poverty rate in the industrialized world with an unprecedented amount of Americans living in dire straights and over 50 million citizens already living in poverty.

The government has come up with clever ways to down play all of these numbers, but we have over 50 million people who need to use food stamps to eat, and a stunning 50% of US children will use a food stamp to eat at some point in their childhood. Approximately 20,000 people are added to this total every day. In 2009, one out of five US households didn’t have enough money to buy food. In households with children, this number rose to 24%, as the hunger rate among US citizens has now reached an all time high.

We also currently have over 50 million US citizens without healthcare. 1.4 million Americans filed for bankruptcy in 2009, a 32% increase from 2008. As bankruptcies continue to skyrocket, medical bankruptcies are responsible for over 60% of them, and over 75% of the medical bankruptcies filed are from people who have healthcare insurance. We have the most expensive healthcare system in the world, we are forced to pay twice as much as other countries and the overall care we get in return ranks 37th in the world.

In total, Americans have lost $5 trillion from their pensions and savings since the economic crisis began and $13 trillion in the value of their homes. During the first full year of the crisis, workers between the age of 55 - 60, who have worked for 20 - 29 years, have lost an average of 25% off their 401k. “Personal debt has risen from 65% of income in 1980 to 125% today.” Over five million US families have already lost their homes, in total 13 million US families are expected to lose their home by 2014, with 25% of current mortgages underwater. Deutsche Bank has an even grimmer prediction: “The percentage of ‘underwater’ loans may rise to 48 percent, or 25 million homes.” Every day 10,000 US homes enter foreclosure. Statistics show that an increasing number of these people are not finding shelter elsewhere, there are now over 3 million homeless Americans, the fastest growing segment of the homeless population is single parents with children.

Read more at http://ampedstatus.com/the-economic-elite-vs-the-people-of-the-united-states-of-america-part-i

Union files complaint against United States Postal Service

02.15.10

FEBRUARY 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Union files complaint against United States Postal Service

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 4th- The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Union Branch 17, Scranton, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging the United States Postal Service (USPS) violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The ULP was discovered during the monthly review by the newspaper of complaints and petitions filed at the NLRB office. The newspaper is the only local media that reviews both complaints and petitions filed by labor organizations and workers.

Branch 17 represents postal employees throughout the Scranton area that delivers mail to USPS costumers.

The complaint states: “since on or about a date six months preceding the filling of this charge, the above-named Employer has delayed the bidding process which has resulted in a senior carrier floating.”

The ULP was filed on behalf of the Union by Thomas Gavin, indentified on the complaint as President of Branch 15. Linda Shall is indentified as the contact person for the employer.

The ULP was filed on February 3rd, 2010 and states Branch 17 represents approximately 110 workers employed by the USPS, Stafford Avenue in Scranton.

According to the NLRB, the allegation of the Union in the complaint is being investigated and should it be found there is merit in the ULP the agency will schedule a hearing.

Chamber of Commerce lobbying hard against NLRB nominee

02.15.10

FEBRUARY 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Chamber of Commerce lobbying hard against NLRB nominee

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, January 30th- More than seven months after the Obama Administration sent to the United States Senate the nomination of Craig Becker to be a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) he has yet to be confirmed because of lobbying of the United States Chamber of Commerce in Washington of the business organization supporters in the Senate.

In April, 2009 President Obama announced his intention to nominate labor law attorneys Mr. Becker and Mark Gaston Pearce for the two vacant Democratic seats on the NLRB. Brian Hayes was nominated by Mr. Obama to be the Republican member of the NLRB. If confirmed by the Senate the NLRB would have a full complement of five members for the first time since December 16th, 2007. There must be at least three members seated on the NLRB to have a quorum. The NLRB oversees the enforcement of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

The Senate in December returned the nomination of Mr. Becker back to the White House, however the Obama Administration resubmitted his name on Janaury 19th.

Mr. Becker’s seat on the NLRB has been blocked by Arizona Republican Senator John McCain by calling for hearings before proceeding to full committee consideration of his nomination.

The United States Chamber of Commerce stated Mr. McCain has a legislative hold on the Becker nomination because it will take 60 votes to invoke cloture on the nomination before it can proceed to an up-or-down vote and all of the Democrats in the Senate have not agreed to support closure. Because of the Massachusetts election the Democratic party will have 59 seats in the Senate but were unable to seat Mr. Becker when the party held sixty seats.

Mr. Becker is Associate General Counsel of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Washington DC.

The sitting members of the NLRB are Chairman Wilma Liebman and member Peter Schaumber.

Mr. Hayes was in private legal practice for more than twenty-five years devoted exclusively to representing management clients in all aspects of labor and employment law. He was represented employers in scores of cases before the NLRB, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and various state fair employment practice agencies.

The Chamber of Commerce stated Mr. Becker was blocked by Senator McCain because of his view that employers should be stripped of any legally cognizable interest in their employees’ election of representatives. Also, Mr. Becker’s ties to the SEIU, an avid proponent of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct) legislation could lead him to advance “Card Check” organizing through administrative action of the NLRB.

“Craig Becker’s nomination represents plan B for organized labor to override the will of Congress and implement elements of card check legislation. Any Senator who supports the private ballot should oppose this nomination,” said Chamber of Commerce Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel Steven Law on January 22nd.

Chairman Liebman’s term expires on August 27th, 2011 and Mr. Schaumber’s term ends on August 27th, 2010. By tradition, three of the five NLRB seats are filled by individuals of the same political party as the President in office.

Corey O’Brien pledges to support labor community if elected

02.15.10

FEBRUARY 2010 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Corey O’Brien pledges to support labor community if elected

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, February 4th- Lackawanna County Majority Democratic Commissioner Corey O’Brien is attempting to gain the support of the labor community which in the past supported incumbent United States House of Representative Paul Kanjorski (11th Legislative District). Mr. O’Brien is challenging Mr. Kanjorski for their party nomination in May. Mr. Kanjorski is serving a 13th term in Washington, DC.

“We are not writing-off organized labor to Mr. O’Brien. Congressman Kanjorski has one of the best labor voting records in Washington. He has supported labor’s agenda, and will continue to do so,” said Ed Mitchell, Mr. Kanjorski’s media consultant.

Justin Carroll, O’Brien for Congress Campaign Manager, told the newspaper several unions have contributed to his campaign that in the past supported Mr. Kanjorski. Mr. Carroll also stated the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Union Local 329 in Scranton endorsed Mr. O’Brien over Mr. Kanjorski.

Mr. Carroll stated both the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters International Union Local 524 in Scranton and the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen International Union (BAC) Local 5 in Harrisburg have given funds to Mr. O’Brien’s campaign. “We are cutting into Mr. Kanjorski’s base. If elected Corey will be a strong voice for labor in Washington. Also, he will be accessible to the labor community, something Mr. Kanjorski is not,” said Mr. Carroll.

Mr. Carroll said the labor community will have Mr. O’Brien’s cell phone number and will even be able to call him on the floor of the House of Representatives if they have any questions or any problems.

The newspaper contacted several labor leaders throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania including unions that represent construction workers, government employees and industrial workers but most did not want to be interviewed on the record about the Primary Election on May 11th.

John Gatto, Assistant Business Manager of the Painters and Allied Trades International Union (IUPAT) District Council 21, Drums, stated what several of the labor leaders told the newspaper, Mr. Kanjorski’s labor voting record should not be ignored when union members vote in the May Primary Election. “Corey has been a supporter of us, but you can’t just forget Paul’s labor voting record,” said Mr. Gatto.

Mr. Kanjorski voted to increase the federal minimum wage in January 2007 and voted for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCAct) legislation in 2008. The Employee Free Choice Act legislation passed in the House of Representatives 241-185 but failed in the United States Senate. The labor community made passage of the legislation a priority in the 2009 legislative session but it stalled in the Senate.

Mr. Mitchell said Corey O’Brien’s pledge to support organized labor in Washington if elected means nothing because Congressman Kanjorski is already one of the most labor progressive votes in the nation’s capitol.

“He has voted to support the working people for more than two decades. He has fought against the conservative anti-union agenda. The labor community has been able to count on his vote,” added Mr. Mitchell.